My wife Maura and I had not been to the Snowy Range (Snowies) outside of Laramie, Wyoming for quite a number of years. During our residency in Laramie (1965 -1990), we often came to the Snowies to hike, fish, camp, or simply admire the wildflowers. These mountains became very much part of our life.
We returned this past week to Laramie for an overnighter at our friend’s home outside of town with an utterly splendid view of the Snowies thirty miles away. After lunch, Tom and Margie surprised us by saying, “Let’s go up to the Snowies.” Even though there were threatening gray clouds, we hopped into their car to drive westward out of town across the immense, rolling green prairies glistening in the rain.
Distant Sheep Mountain, beneath the Snowies, barely appeared through dense, gray layers of mist.
After driving several miles, we peered out the car windows down to the “Great Hollow,” a deep and long valley within the prairie, as legend has it, blown out by a great wind perhaps 10,000 years ago in glacial times. At the western edge of the hollow rose a table mesa shaped much like a wind-blown dune with its edges slipping out eastward toward Laramie. I well remember going there often to search for Indian arrowheads chipped out of chocolate-brown chalcedony stone by the Arapaho people whose stone tipi rings are still visible north of town. Many an arrow-point flew from a rawhide bow to lodge deep within an antelope or mule deer, food enough for weeks to come.
We flew past the colorful frontier town of Centennial, Wyoming to gain altitude rapidly through a dense lodgepole pine forest, which, in early days, served the Ute and Arapaho tribes for construction of their tipi lodges, hence the name “lodgepole” pine. As we gained elevation from 9,000 to 10,000 feet, we saw the change from lodgepole pines to spruce and fir trees, between which we gained views of vast snowfields lacing the dark granite slopes of the Snowies streaked in dark gray clouds.
Up on Libby Flats, two miles above sea level, many glacial lakes came into view including Mirror Lake and Lake Marie. We pulled up along the shoreline of Lake Marie lined with golden-yellow glacier lilies. Here we stared at deep banks of late-June snow reflected in dark, icy waters.
I remembered years ago packing my fishing gear to go up to Lake Marie and hike along its shores to a steadily flowing inlet on the eastern side. I would cast my line out into the inlet’s current to have my bubble and fly drift into the lake where my line tightened with the jerking movement of a hooked brook trout. I would recast several more times until I had four or five of them that I would later clean and roast on the grill to supply my family with a nice dinner of the ever-so-tasty trout.
We all got out of the car to take a wee trail down to the waters of Lake Marie to reminisce about our annual Labor Day hike up Medicine Bow Peak with our kids, friends and neighbors to its 12,002 feet snowy summit. Up here we ate our sandwiches and admired the view southward to the distant high tundra mounds of Rocky Mountain National Park.
We greatly appreciated Tom and Margie’s gesture of taking us up to the Snowy Range and to experience so many memories of one of our favorite places on Earth.